What is it with kids these days?

Graffiti - El Diamante Style

Graffiti – El Diamante Style

“Kids these days!” I imagine that since earliest human history, there has been a tendency for older generations to see the younger generations as their unworthy heirs. You can almost hear the complaints from just outside the cave – “Kids these days are spoiled, lazy and act as if mammoth steak grows on trees. If they ever have to hunt for themselves, they’ll probably starve. Why, when I was their age…”

In the 1930’s, the veterans of WWI bemoaned the condition of “kids these days”. In their view, the kids of the 30’s were soft, and would never be able to serve their country in the manner that the Doughboys had done in “their” great war. Those unworthy youth of the 1930’s are often now referred to as America’s Greatest Generation.

I have been teaching for thirty years. I have had the opportunity over the years to speak with many former students, and have often enough heard the ancient phrase from them. “Kids these days,” they will begin, followed by observations supporting their opinion that the youth of today fail to live up to the lofty standards that they, themselves, established in their youth. Frequently I find myself having to bite my tongue as I recall the truth about the individual standing before me.

This week we lost a student at my school to suicide. To compound the tragedy, the social networking “athletes” tossed around rumors, jumped to conclusions, ran their mouths when they didn’t have the facts, and kicked the students, faculty and coaching staff of my school when we were down. Of course, a number of these self-appointed pontificators came through with the accusatory phrase, “Kids these days!”

So, let me pitch in my two-cents about kids these days.

Kids these days are more compassionate, tolerant and inclusive than any with whom I have ever had contact, including my own generation in our youth. As I began writing this tonight, the students of my school were holding a candlelight memorial for the young man who took his own life. This is a memorial that THEY organized. The students at my school are advocates for the environment, shelter animals, and the developmentally disabled. The cynical would suggest that they do these things to pad their college applications, but I would respond by telling you that most of these young people will not be applying directly to four-year colleges. And those who do aspire to a four-year college face a far more competitive process than what I faced.

Whether it is the national news, or the local news, I am endlessly impressed with “kids these days.” At a high school in Tulare, instructor Michaelpaul Mendoza has a club called “Harvesting Hope” which does the hard work of gleaning unused produce in Tulare County and making it available to feed the hungry. Ask him about “kids these days.”

Perhaps it is a natural progression in life to embellish upon the quality of one’s own youth. Like fish stories, our memories recall smarter, harder working, more athletic, and better behaved selves than the truth could support. I don’t expect that to change, as I think it is a natural response to aging and our own mortality. If you are dealing with the stresses of adult life, and want to tell a few white lies about your gpa, IQ or batting average, then be my guest. But please don’t do it at the expense of “kids these days.”

I am the owner-developer of Sciencegeek.net and a science teacher at El Diamante High School in Visalia, CA.

Posted in Teaching